WACO, Texas — Area schools like Baylor and McLennan Community College are reopening to in-person classes this month, despite the record-breaking number of cases in McLennan County. They are, however, adding more precautions as students head back to class.
"Our health management team looked at what's the differential of starting the semester remote or postponing the semester for a couple weeks or just starting as planned," said Jason Cook, vice president of marketing and communications for Baylor.
Ultimately, the university decided there would not be a large difference between starting in-person or going with an alternate option, since many students would return to town anyway.
McLennan Community College started its new semester Monday and is also going ahead with in-person classes.
"We felt confident that with everything we learned through delta--through alpha and delta and all those things and all those factors that we did, that we could come back and be successful," said MCC director of emergency and risk management, Frank Patterson.
Both schools attribute the milder symptoms of omicron for younger, vaccinated people as another reason for starting the semester normally.
Despite the state's ban on COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates, MCC is still strongly encouraging students to wear masks and get vaccinated. Tests are also currently available on campus.
Baylor is instituting a temporary testing requirement for all students moving back to campus. They must test negative within 24 hours of moving in. Unvaccinated students and faculty will continue to be tested twice weekly.
In certain circumstances, on-campus students who test positive will be provided isolation housing, but Cook recommends students come with a plan.
"Think through what you would do if you do test positive," Cook said.
Both schools are hopeful that the surge will only last a couple of weeks and that it will subside quickly.